Japan has a lot of vending machines. On any given corner you can find vending machines selling hot drinks, cold drinks, hot soup, etc.* You can also find ones similar to the machines dispensing toys in U.S. supermarkets, and these are gachapon machines. You put in your money and you get out a plastic ball that contains your toy, figurine, phone charm, what-have-you. You can get all sorts of things including corporate mascots (on my last trip we found one selling mascots from Mister Donut), anime characters, or even cats made of plastic sushi.
So when, on the way back from Gioji, we spotted a gachapon machine vending Buddhist figurines, OF COURSE I had to get one! I put in my money, turned the crank, and out popped a red-bottomed plastic ball. I waited until we were back at the hanare to open it, because it might have little pieces that would fall out, and upon cracking the ball, I got…
A three-inch-tall plastic replica of the statue of the Buddhist demigod Ashura from the Kofukuji temple at Nara!
Best. 300Y. Spent. Evar.
(we’re still on the lookout for the sushi cats, though, which may give this one a run for its money in terms of awesomeness, however.)
*There are a subset of you sniggering “And used panties!” right now. You are about 20-30 years out of date, as they existed in the 1980s, IIRC, and only in certain specialty shops (i.e., porn shops). You would never find them on a random street corner. And most Japanese would find them as weird as you do.
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